Thursday, 29 September 2011

Careless by Anne Cassidy

As Chloe Cozens mourns the death of her mother, Lesley, teenage 'delinquent' Nicky Nelson experiences quite a different emotion towards her, his social worker, the one person he thought he could rely on when everyone else had let him down. Lesley Cozens wrote Nicky a letter before she died, the contents of which the reader does not know until much later in the novel, but the letter triggers a rage in Nicky that could have had tragic consequences if Chloe had not got involved. When Nicky begins hanging around Chloe's house with a mixture of curiosity and anger that she has had a happy life compared with his, he is prepared to hate her, but instead the two of them form a strange kind of bond. Chloe is her mother's daughter, and finds herself wanting to help Nicky find his real mother, the one who abandoned him at birth. Ironically, the clues she pieces together about what happened lead her back to her mother's home town, and to her childhood friend, Sonia, who is keeping a painful secret of her own. Chloe finds comfort in helping Nicky, a boy who is almost like a brother in that her own mother looked out for him for so long, and Nicky discovers that sometimes you have to trust in people in order to move on and build a life...

This book was rubbish. I chose it from the library because the blurb makes it sound good - like it has a lot of unanswered mysteries in it. And it does, that's for sure. But the way Cassidy reveals them...she just downplays it. I honestly think that the initial storyline is great - she could have done so much with it. But she didn't. Every mystery turned out to be obvious and rubbish. You didn't feel for Nicky or Chloe or Lesley or Sonia. You didn't even get to know them, despite knowing their brief background history and some stuff which should be personal. I just...words can't describe how disappointed I was. Really not worth the read, but I will admit that it is a light and easy read.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

BROOKLYN: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she’s about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Paris for winter break.

PARIS: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn’t want—and couldn’t escape.

Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine’s diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There’s comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal’s antique pages—until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present.


When I started this book, I was a bit unsure as to whether I would like it or not. As I've said before, I'm not overly keen on books set in the past, and at the beginning of the book I didn't know whether it was currently set in the past or the future. But as I read on, things started to become clear, and I fell absolutely head-over-heels for this book! It was amazing - honestly amazing. One thing that made me pick up this book in the first place was because of how thick it is - nearly 500 pages. Nowadays, thick teenage books are hard to come upon, and I really fancied a novel I could sink my teeth into. And this book was perfect for the job, and even now that I've finished it, I just want to pick it up and read it all over again. Throughout the story, you connect with each of the main characters and feel like all the events are simply unfolding before you - you feel like you are inside Andi's head. It's so brilliantly and beautifully written - Donnelly manages to capture the escence of present-day teen as well as post-day teen. And she seems to do it so effortlessly, too. I enjoyed this book more than words can describe, and I really want to read another one of her books soon.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

A Voice in the Distance by Tabitha Suzuma

In his final year at the Royal College of Music, star pianist Flynn Laukonen has the world at his feet. He has moved in with his girlfriend Jennah and is already getting concert bookings for what promises to be a glittering career. Yet he knows he is skating on thin ice - only two small pills a day keep him from plunging back into the whirlpool of manic depression that once threatened to destroy him. Unexpectedly his friends seem to be getting annoyed with him for no apparent reason, he needs less and less sleep, he is filled with unbridled energy. Events begin to spiral out of control and Flynn suddenly finds himself in hospital, heavily sedated, carnage left behind him. The medication isn't working any more, the dose needs to be increased, and depression strikes again, this time with horrific consequences. His freedom is snatched away and the medicine's side-effects threaten to jeopardize his chances in one of the biggest piano competitions of his life. It seems like he has to make a choice between the medication and his career. But in all this he has forgotten the one person he would give his life for, and Flynn suddenly finds himself facing the biggest sacrifice of all.

A Voice in the Distance is the sequel to Tabitha Suzuma's other novel, A Note of Madness. Again, it is based around pianist Flynn, and his struggle to cope with bipolar. As an addition to the previous book, the tale is now told in two POV's - Flynn's and his girlfriend, Jennah's. That is probably one of the things I best loved about this book - you not only saw how the mental illness affected Flynn, but also the loved ones around him. I honestly think that this book is better than its prequel, but prehaps that is because I was more emotionally attatched to the last one, and found it uncomfortable to face up to some home truths? All the way throughout the story, Suzuma manages to keep it realistic, making sure that it isn't sugarcoated - it is just the raw truth. She captures the relationship between Jennah and Flynn amazingly, and at the end I could feel tears in my eyes. Although I wish the ending had been different, I know that what happened had to happen - but I want to read more. I really hope that Suzuma continues this tale and extends it into a triology so that I can see what happens to the pair - and their family and friends - next. I really enjoyed these two books, and I want to read the last of Suzuma's five novels soon.

Monday, 19 September 2011

A Note of Mandess by Tabitha Suzuma

Life as a student is good for Flynn. As one of the top pianists at the Royal College of Music, he has been put forward for an important concert, the opportunity of a lifetime. But beneath the surface, things are changing. On a good day, he feels full of energy and life, but on a bad day being alive is worse than being dead. Sometimes he wants to compose and practise all night, at other times he can't get out of bed. His flatmate Harry tries to understand but is increasingly confused by Flynn's erratic mood swings. His friend Jennah tries to help, but Flynn finds it difficult to be around her as he struggles to control his feelings and behaviour. With the pressure of the forthcoming concert and the growing concern of his family and friends, emotions come to a head. Sometimes things can only get worse before they get better.

Usually when I go to write my review, I have an idea of what I am going to rate it. But not with this book. Suzuma is definately one of my favourite authors, and what I mostly love about her books is that she somehow manages to really capture the essence of what its like to be a teenager in these complicated situations, and I honestly felt myself cringing at parts of this book because I could relate so much to them. I guess that's really what makes me want to rate it a 9 - not because I didn't think it was excellent, but because the emotions shown were so raw and so real that it literally made me want to put the book down and turn away, or skip to the next chapter. But apart from that, I really enjoyed it. Compared to her others books, it wasn't as good, but I think thats what happens when you are dealing with topics that don't usually get written about. Throughout the story, Flynn's emotions become more clear and more raw, and I didn't know whether I wanted to hug him or slap him at some parts. Because on one hand, his bipolar is horrible for him, and you just want him to be okay again - but then he can just be a prick to Harry, Rami and Jennah, which is partly his bipolars fault, but he doesn't make things any easier for himself. However, its hard not to love Flynn all the same. All in all, I really enjoyed the book, and I am currently reading the sequel to this, A Voice In The Distance. I hope it will live up to the standards this book has set.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Drawing With Light by Julia Green

Kat and Emily have grown up without their mother for almost as long as they can remember. And now Dad is with Cassy and they all muddle along together well enough - even though they are living in a cramped caravan while their new house is being renovated. Then Cassy and Dad tell them that Cassy is pregnant, and everything seems to shift. Emily feels a new urge to find her own mother. How could she have left them the way she did? Never writing to them? Not communicating with them? And as Emily begins her search, not knowing what she will find, she is at the same time embarking on a new relationship of her own, that of her romance with Seb. This is an evocative and finely drawn novel about family relationships, in particular that of mother and daughter, and the shifting emotions of a teenager trying to make sense of her family and her world.
 This is the first book I have read of Green's, and I was really impressed. The storyline was great - it mainly focused on family, but it also had hints of romance, and was, in a way, a coming-of-age novel. Throughout the story, Green really delves into Emily's life, and combined with the memories and stories told, the reader really feels more like friends with Emily than just an observer. Green's writing really captures teenage readers attention, with a perfect balance between description and conversation. Also, the small hints about Emily's mother, Cassy, Bob and Seb throughout the novel keep the reader hooked, and the unfolding of the mystery right at the end really leaves the reader feeling satisfied. I honestly enjoyed it, and really want to reader another one of her books soon.

Monday, 12 September 2011

White Crow by Marcus Sedgwick

Supposing you wanted to prove something, something important. Supposing you wanted to prove, for argument’s sake, that there is life after death.

“1798, 10mo, 6d. I believe he intends to practise some unholy rite, a summoning, a conjuration. A thing of magic.”

Two lives, two centuries apart. But they walked the same paths, lived in the same house, and became obsessed by the same question.
When city girl Rebecca steps into the quiet streets of Winterfold that relentlessly hot summer, her uneasy friendship with strange, elfin Ferelith sets in motion a shocking train of events.

There was just something about this book that I didn't like. Firstly, you didn't really get to properly know any of the characters - and secondly, every mystery brought up in the book was not solved, apart from the main one, which was rather infuriating. As you read, you want to know more about Rebecca (how does she feel about everything going on? Is she in love with Ferelith?), about Ferelith (is she in love with Rebecca? Why did she do what she did?), about Rebecca and Adam's past relationship (why did he break up with her?), about John (what did he do to the girl? Why was he blamed? Was it his fault?), what happened to the vicar and the doctor (did they die? Did they get caught?), the Wizard of Oz DVD (how did it get there?) - and so much more. I finished the book and felt completely unsatisfied. However, despite my criticisms, the ending was very good - definately the best part out of the whole book. Throughout the tale, Sedgwick kind of hinted that something big was going to happen - and I really think he did the right thing in the end; I don't think he could have ended the story any other way. I really liked the plot idea, and if it had just been developed a bit more, I really think I would have enjoyed it. But unfortunately it wasn't, and I'm not too keen on reading any more of his books in the future.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Without Looking Back by Tabitha Suzuma

I used to be called Louis Whittaker, he thought to himself. I had a sister called Millie and a brother called Max. I used to live in a big house in Paris. I used to speak French every day. None of this is true anymore...
Louis is a young Parisian with a lot on his plate - his parents are locked in a custody battle over him and his brother and sister, Mum is always working late and Dad is rarely allowed to visit. But his passion and talent for dancing and his friends at school mean that life in Paris is good and certainly not one he ever thought he'd be forced to leave behind. So when Dad suddenly whisks Louis and his siblings away on a surprise holiday to England, right in the middle of the school term, he isn't too thrilled, especially as Dad is acting strangely again. Why is he being so secretive and paranoid - could it be he has not fully recovered from his mental breakdown? The rented farmhouse in the Lake District is nice, but why is Dad furnishing it and why won't he let them call home? Then Louis comes across a poster - a missing person's poster. And it has his face on it...

Suzuma is definitely becoming one of my favourite authors. This is the second book of hers that I have read, and although I preferred the other one a little bit more, I still utterly loved this one. The thing I really like about her books is that she deals with topics that we all know and think about, but barely ever read about - well, in teenage books, anyway. This novel was about a depressed father taking his three children away from France to Paris after he lost the custordy battle with his ex-wife. From the beginning, the reader knows about them being abducted, and for the first half of the book you are just sat waiting for one of them to find out. And they do halfway through the story, just like I said - which confused me. All I could think of was, what is going to happen for the rest of the book? I don't want to spoil what happens, but I thought it was an excellent twist to what I was expecting, and the ending was fantastic - again, totally unexpected but perfect. Suzuma shows in this novel that situations like these are far more complicated than we can understand, and she shows this so beautifully. As you read, you really become attatched to the characters of Louis, Max and Millie - and even their kidnapping Father. At the end I could feel tears welling up in m eyes , and I just wish there had been one more chapter, because it kind of ends on a cliffhanger. You want to find out what happens to the family - do they get caught, or do they get away with it? What does Max do when he hits sixteen? What does Louis do when he hits sixteen? However, a sequel just wouldn't be good for this book - it is so amazing and moving as it is. My praise for Suzuma is endless and I hope to read some of her other books in the future.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Becoming Bindy Mackenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty

Bindy Mackenzie is the smartest − and kindest − girl at Ashbury High. She likes to share her knowledge and offers lunchtime advisory sessions in a relaxed setting (the locker room). But when Bindy discovers that, despite all her hard work, nobody likes her, benevolent Bindy is banished − ruthless Bindy is about to be unleashed. Bindy records every moment of her new rebellious life in a project − from The Philosophical Musings of B. Mackenzie to extracts from her essays. But her scrapbook is also the key to a bizarre mystery − with Bindy herself at the centre. Only her friends can help her now. If only she had some.

As I said in my previous review on one of Jaclyn Moriarty's other novels, Dreaming of Amelia, I read Becoming Bindy Mackenzie a couple of years back and didn't remember much about it. So I decided I would re-read it - and i loved it! Again in this book, I re-met some of the characters I had read in the other book: Emily, Astrid, Lydia, Cassie and Toby - along with new characters Emily, Sergio, Briony and Finnegan (although Becoming Bindy Mackenzie was published before Dreaming of Amelia - and Bindy was, in fact, in DoA). So when I started, I was already fairly familiar with some of the characters - but not the main one, Bindy. Bindy Mackenzie is the replicar of that one girl each of us has in our year: constantly recieving praise from teachers, getting countless awards, always getting top marks in essays and tests - that one girl that we can find patronising and annoying. So as I read this book, it was quite eye-opening to see the life through someone elses eyes - and you actually realize how hard it is to keep being at the top, and how much Bindy has actually sacrificed to get to where she is. But then disaster strikes as Bindy tries to be nice to her fellow pupils and finds out that they are not actually at all fond of her - or so it seems. So she sets out to try and be ruthless and horrid, by comparing each of the seven pupils in her FAD group (Friendship and Development group, where eight pupils get together to relax and speak about their stresses and worries) to poisonous and venomous animals. As the novel slowly unwinds, you share a coming-of-age journey with Bindy, and even though she is rather annoying in the beginning, I found that I grew fond of her throughout the tale. One of the things I find unique to Moriarty's stories is that throughout the novel, a conspiracy forming that is only revealed in the last few chapters of the book - so as the reader starts to get tired of the long story, a massive plot is dropped on their heads. And you know what? It absolutely works. The best thing about it is that you have no real clue of it even existing until it is basically spelt out in front of you. It makes her novels even better, and you find yourself looking back through the book to spot the clues and hints of what was going on. I really enjoyed it, and I think I read about half of it in a couple of hours. Brilliant work!

Friday, 2 September 2011

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell

When Evie's father returned home from World War II, the family fell back into its normal life pretty quickly. But Joe Spooner brought more back with him than just good war stories. When movie-star handsome Peter Coleridge, a young ex-GI who served in Joe's company in postwar Austria, shows up, Evie is suddenly caught in a complicated web of lies that she only slowly recognizes. She finds herself falling for Peter, ignoring the secrets that surround him . . . until a tragedy occurs that shatters her family and breaks her life in two.
As she begins to realize that almost everything she believed to be a truth was really a lie, Evie must get to the heart of the deceptions and choose between her loyalty to her parents and her feelings for the man she loves. Someone will have to be betrayed. The question is . . . who?

For a while now, I haven't been keen on books set too far back in the past. But this one caught my eye so I thought, why not? And I actually really enjoyed it. With the way Blundell writes, the reader really gets to know the character of Evelyn Spooner, and by the end of the story you feel more like her friend than just a reader of her tale.  Blundell really manages to capture the essence of teenage feelings in this novel, and also how complicated and confusing they can be. From the beginning you are on Evie's side, and see things entirely from her point of view - and despite the different eras, I really felt like I could relate to the events around her as well as her feelings. Each main character in the book is well developed - you even manage to get a clear picture about the minor characters. I was particularly impressed by the way the relationship between Joe and Bev is told - how at the beginning, it seems to be romantic and true, and at the end it seems to be the complete opposite. I have to say, I took a rather big liking to Peter, even though he was the cause of most of the problems around Evie and her family. I don't have any critisisms for this story - I only wish that we'd seen a bit more of Evie and Peter's relationship, for it was so frustrating when you just wanted the two to be alone, but there was always someone else with them. I really enjoyed this novel, and I am actually thinking of reading a few more novels based around that time - it's actually really interesting to hear about a teenagers life from the past; you realize that we all have the same feelings, no matter what era we are from.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Rich and Mad by William Nicholson

This is a compelling and beautifully written novel about first love, first sex, and everything in between. Maddy Fisher has decided to fall in love. And not just any sort of love: can't-eat can't-sleep crazy in love. Rich Ross is after the same thing. He's set his sights high, and he's going to make it happen. The problem is, in life's messy whirlwind of friends and lies and sex and porn, the real thing can be hard to fine. But there's always a first time for everything...

I have to say that at first, I wasn't sure on this book. I read one of Nicholson's other books when I was in Year Six, and all I can remember from it is that I hated it - but that was probably because I didn't understand it. And how do I know that? Because I absolutely fell head over heels for this book! From reading the blurb, you can kind of get a vague picture of Maddy - she's a young teen who wants to have her first love. And that is what you get: she immediately sets out to find someone to have a crush on, who is Joe. Now this is the confusing bit - from reading the title of the novel and the blurb, you think Maddy and Rich are going to be the ones falling in love. But instead, Maddy crushes on Joe, and Rich crushes on Maddy's best friend, Grace. However, that isn't the end of it. The book is full of unexpected twists and turns, and you will find yourself laughing, crying, and really believing in true love. It's such a heartwarming story and I found that I learnt a lot about myself as a teenager through the story. I really do recommend it - it is one of those kinds of books that honestly make you sit back and think about the world as the whole. It also teaches you to never judge a book by its cover. Literally.